Following an agreement between the city and LiveBarn, parents will be able to view ice hockey games and practices at Troubh Ice Arena. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald

PORTLAND — Fans will be kept out of the stands as the high school hockey season begins this week, but in the future, parents and others will be able to watch the games live from home.

The City Council Feb. 1 approved an agreement to allow LiveBarn to provide livestreaming and on-demand videos of high school and other youth sports played at Troubh Ice Arena. The service should be available in time for next year’s high school hockey season.

The Park Avenue arena will join a dozen other ice rinks that use the service, including the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Biddeford Ice Arena, Family Ice Center and Casco Bay Arena in Falmouth, and Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

Viewers can subscribe to the video feeds via livebarn.com. Subscriptions ranging from $18 a month or $180 a year to $27.95 a month or $275 a year. The higher priced plan allows two users on one account and permits the downloading of 30-second clips. The city will receive 30% of the subscription proceeds and will pay no upfront costs for the service.

“LiveBarn covers all costs associated with install, hardware and maintenance for the duration of the contract,” said Jake O’Donal, manager of the ice arena.

The rink is home to Portland/Deering, Cheverus, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth high school hockey programs.

Ethan Hipple, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department, said subscribers can watch livestreams of games held at any of the more than 1,500 LiveBarn venues in the United States and Canada.

“You aren’t just paying for a game at Troubh Ice Arena. You are paying for a whole network of places,” Hipple said.

The livestreaming is a good way for families to watch youth hockey players when they can’t attend games in person, especially during the pandemic, Mayor Kate Snyder said. She has used a similar service to watch her son play in out-of-state baseball games, she said.

Hockey coaches also use LiveBarn’s on-demand service to review games or practices or scout competition, and players can use the videos to review to improve their game and save highlight clips, according to LiveBarn.

“This is not a service that is currently offered, so to be able to give people this opportunity, COVID or not, is a great direction,” Snyder said.

Councilor April Fournier, who with Councilor Andrew Zarro voted against the contract, cited the economic impact of the pandemic on families. She said the cost would make hockey an even more expensive sport.

Zarro said he had concerns about privacy and LiveBarn using players’ images and videos for promotional purposes.

Ace Malette, an employee of the Family Ice Center who runs the Greater Portland Industrial Hockey League, said privacy has not been an issue in the two years the Falmouth arena has used LiveBarn. So far, he said, “the benefits far outweigh the concerns.”

John Veilleux, president of the Casco Bay Arena Board of Directors, said privacy is also not a concern at his venue, which has been using LiveBarn streams for three years. The only area that the cameras pick up is the “the rink itself, not the viewing areas, locker rooms or lobby,” he said.

The cameras typically run at all times the Family Ice Center is open, Malette said, but private lessons or practices can be blacked out or password protected upon requests from parents or coaches. He said he doesn’t recall parents being concerned about their children’s privacy, but on occasion coaches do ask for the cameras not be rolling.

“They are the ones who are usually concerned with who is watching or not watching, not the parents,” Malette said.

All in all, the service has worked well, Malette said, and the Family Ice Center has shared one of the subscription codes that LiveBarn has provided to them with Rivalries, a nearby restaurant that streams games for parents.

“It has been very useful in times like this,” he said.

“LiveBarn has been a great partner for us, and since we don’t allow any spectators at CBA this season to watch any games or practices, it allows parents, family and friends to still watch their kids skate,” Veilleux said.

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